The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

No Ward. No London. No problem?

With 11 seconds left during the FCS quarterfinal game last month, the Richmond Spiders were mere clock ticks away from reaching their third-straight national semifinal. But when those 11 seconds slowly disappeared, so did many of the people that helped put together the magical run of the last three seasons.

The quarterback who holds every major passing record in school history took off his jersey for the last time. The stadium that hosted Spider football for 81 years went dark for the last time. And as many suspected, the coach who led his alma mater to its first and only national title in any sport ever, roamed the Richmond sidelines for the last time. The renaissance of Spider football ended in a three-day flurry of bad news.

The past three seasons will go down as the most successful in program history — three playoff berths, two Colonial Athletic Association titles and one National Championship. For a school that seemed on the verge of moving to the less competitive Patriot League only a few short years ago, calling them unbelievable probably isn't an exaggeration.

With all of the success and excitement the football program has enjoyed during the past few seasons, it's no surprise that many have already begun looking forward to August. With the youngest coach in all of Division I football and more than a dozen new starters set to take the field for the first game at E. Claiborne Robins Stadium, many people outside the program think that the Spider glass slippers may be starting to shatter.

But before football season could even give way to an exciting basketball season, some quarterback from USC showed up at the door. No, not South Carolina, the real USC. The one that produced Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel and Matt Leinart, probably the best set of quarterbacks from one school during the last decade. I realize Aaron Corp has yet to win the starting job at Richmond, a job that sophomore John Laub will surely challenge for, but if you're going to get a transfer quarterback, USC is the dream school to give you one.

New head coach Latrell Scott is only 34 years old, but he's worked with and learned from some of the best coaches in college football. He coached many of Richmond's veteran players during his stint as wide receiver coach in 2006 and 2007 and helped recruit numerous others. He's never been a head coach or coordinator, but seeing as the past two head coaches have gone on to lead FBS programs, I think athletic director Jim Miller probably knows what he's getting into with Scott.

When Mike London took the short drive up I-64 W, many of the players I talked to said they wanted another guy like him. Well, they got their wish and pretty soon London may be just a distant memory of the beginning of Richmond football's rise to power.

Speaking of coach London, his departure brought the only real criticism he ever faced since arriving on campus. When he was asked about his future with the Spiders after the loss to Appalachian State University and chose to talk about his daughter's hot cocoa preferences instead, I had a feeling he'd coached his last game, and I don't think anyone could blame him for taking an almost 300 percent pay raise.

But, for a guy whose motto was go to class and show class, I wish he had followed his own advice a little bit more. He should have told his players he was leaving and he should have thanked each and every one of them personally for giving him the opportunity to fulfill his dreams here and at the University of Virginia.

He shouldn't have snuck away in the middle of the night and then announced that he was happy to be home in Charlottesville. London was Spider born and Spider bred, and even though he was one of the nicest coaches I have had the pleasure to work with, I hope he and the Cavaliers are Spider dead during the first game of next season.

Assuming London and the big wigs at U.Va don't wimp out of next season's scheduled game against Richmond, London's former players will have their opportunity to show their ex-coach that he may have left for better money, but not a better football team. For a team and coach that will need to find their identity early on next season, the Spiders could not have dreamed of a better chance to prove they are for real.

It took 11 seconds for the dream run to end. It took two days for the storybook coach to leave. It took eight days to choose the leader for the new era of Spider football. In eight months, we'll find out if it's as good as the last.

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